Roundup: Guilt-free stem cells, the trials of Avandia, sponsor research bias, news from ASCO, and more

Flip switch for stem cells — Three research teams reported a technique for “reprogramming” skin cells into embryonic stem cells, those primordial bits of protoplasm that can propagate themselves indefinitely and, under the right conditions, transform themselves into any type of cell in the body. Deriving embryonic stem cells normally requires destroying an embryo — the main reason research with the cells remains limited, as does federal support for the work.

Roundup: Genetic links to breast cancer, Avandia under attack, death and the drug official, and more

More genetic links for breast cancer — Whole-genome association studies that tease out links between minute genetic variations and the likelihood of disease are definitely building momentum. Over the last several days, researchers reported six new variations that increase the risk of breast cancer for women who have inherited them. (For background, see this Boston Globe piece or my recent take on the subject.) It’s now conceivable that scientists may soon have an excellent handle on the genetic contributions to this particular disease.